Writing in Public: Story 2, Final scenes
Tam and I go down into the cellar. He says the foundation is closest to the time line break and the best place to talk to time.
I haven’t used the cellar since I moved in. It’s got a musty odor of disuse. The old wooden stairs creak painfully as we descend. A naked bulb yellowed with age illuminates the room with a shuddering light. Boxes left by my cousin are stalked up against the walls. I hadn’t touched them. Didn’t want to deal with the spiders.
Tam goes to the far wall and begins hauling boxes out of the way. He drops them aside with a crash, sending up a cloud of dust. But he doesn’t go too near the wall. He grabs the flaps on the last few boxes and drags them to the side.
The brick on this wall is definitely old, the mortar cracked. But there’s a drawing near the foundation. I catch my breath. It’s the same drawing that was on the letter Elias left me. My original interpretation was correct: It is a stylized eye that is both looking forward and backward.
Before I realize it, my feet are moving forward. Like I’m being called. Tam steps out of the way.
I stop. Whatever it is seems okay with that. Curious perhaps.
Then a tinkling of a laugh in my head. There’s nothing pleasant in the laugh. It’s a trickster’s laugh.
I look back at Tam. He’s shrunk away, sweat breaking out on his upper lip. What isn’t he telling me?
“Tam—” I say.
A thousand voices erupt all at once. It should crowd me into cacophony, but the voices flow around me like water.
And they’re all saying one word: “Elias.”
Could he have come from the past through the leak to here?
Tam’s face is stricken, going to pale. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s true?” I say.
I don’t even have time to process this. The voices spring to life again, turning into a wind. It’s not cold and it’s not hot.
It swirls around me, like it’s checking me out. I catch the perfume of spring and the decay of winter before it’s whisked away.
The laughter again, all around me, and yet coming from nowhere. A flood of images assaults me, too many to many…new birth, squalling for attention…and ancient life, so old it makes my teeth hurt…and everything in between.
The world spins. I think I’m dying.
I’m on my knees. Tears run down my face.
Tam’s—Elias’ voice breaks through to me. “Talk to it, Michelle.”
My brain is stuck. I say the only thing I can think of: “Stop it! Stop it!”
And I’m hitting the floor with my fists, the pain clearing my thoughts. I remember Tam—Elias—saying time was vindictive.
“You want revenge?”
I almost say that it’s had two hundred years of revenge. But it’s time and it’s ancient. Two hundred years is probably like a single drop in an ocean. It won’t understand.. I have this vision of being stuck here in this bubble for the rest of my life. I resent it. I’ve had to spend my time avoiding people because I happened to be born to the wrong family.
My outrage boils free. What is it going to do to me that everyone else hasn’t?
“How dare you? I have no life because of you. I can’t even get a damned newspaper like a normal person! This place is a nothing town, because of you, just so you can have entertainment.”
The laughter spins around me, like it’s waiting for me to join in.
Outrage pushes me to my feet.
“You’ve had your fun. Go on your way. You’re not having any more fun here. Not if I can help it. I’ll go get my damn-self arrested and thrown in jail. What will you do then? There’s no one left!”
The laughter falls silent.
Then there’s a low sound like a sonic boom. It locks me to the ground, stunning me. My brain screams to get up, but my body is having none of it. Gradually sensations return to my body. First, awareness that I am breathing. Then how much my hands and knees hurt. And I’m hungry.
Elias is gone. So the time symbol on the wall.
I crawl across the floor to it, my knees scraping the concrete.
No energy either.
The leak is closed.
For a long time, I sat on the floor, afraid to go out and face the world I’ve just changed.
It’s been now nearly three weeks since I sealed the leak. I went out the first day when I could muster up the courage, and everything had snapped back to the way it was. But the town of Graham was different, like a storm had gone through the night before and washed the air clean.
The people? They’re different, too. Same faces, but the feeling of blame is gone. People look at me, and sometimes they smile, and sometimes they greet me. Today, as I walk out of the restaurant at 3:00, my fingers close around a folded sheet of paper in my pocket, and I smile. It’s a phone number. I hope there are more changes like this.
- Posted in: Thoughts